Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1998
Released by the Bureau for International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC, February 1999
Lebanon was removed from the list of major illicit drug-producing or drug-transit countries affecting the U.S. (the "majors list") in November 1997. The key factor leading to Lebanon's removal from the list was a determination that opium cultivation had been all but completely halted in Lebanon. At present, there is some minor resumption of cannabis cultivation in certain areas, though at a very low level. The primary product is hashish. There is no known significant poppy cultivation. There are some small drug laboratories of little importance. Law enforcement initiatives backed by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have thwarted a recurrence of cultivation and trafficking. However, established smuggling routes remain available.
In 1998 Lebanon's Parliament passed anti-narcotics
legislation requiring severe sentences for narcotics trafficking, including forfeiture of
any assets connected to drug proceeds. The legislation addresses money laundering without
affecting bank secrecy. The GOL depends on the Bankers' Association with its informal
agreement among its members to discover and combat the laundering of funds. The detection
of laundered moneys relies on the honesty and vigilance of the banking community.
Lebanon is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, but expressed formal reservations on certain provisions, including bank secrecy.II. Status of Country
The Lebanese government, with the assistance of Syrian military forces, appears to have controlled and suppressed drug-producing capabilities. The 1997 Syrian-Lebanese effort to eradicate cannabis and poppy cultivation in the Bekaa Valley was a success, and the Lebanese Internal Security Force (ISF) and Lebanese Armed Forces appear concerned and motivated to preserve their victory. Drug seizures and arrests of traffickers and users are reported regularly in the media. However, some small-scale growth of cannabis has resumed. No accurate data is available on cultivation as farmers in these areas are very secretive. The primary product is hashish. There is no known significant poppy cultivation.
The Lebanese Ministry of Health, the Lebanese Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and Lebanese Customs are cognizant of DEA guidelines regarding precursor chemicals. They recognize that these chemicals require approval prior to importation, and close monitoring if manufactured in Lebanon. A few drug laboratories exist in Lebanon, but they are considered to be of little importance.
Lebanon continues to take aggressive steps in the war against drugs. This year the Parliament passed anti-narcotic legislation that imposes severe penalties for those who are connected with the drug trade, including money laundering. The new law addresses persons who either direct money laundering or who knowingly aid or participate in money laundering schemes. However, the new law is more of an implement for punishing identified drug traffickers and co-conspirators for money laundering than a mechanism for permitting aggressive investigations to expose assets of suspect traffickers. The GOL depends on the Bankers' Association with its informal agreement among its members to discover and combat the laundering of funds. The Central Bank Governor stresses that there is no money laundering in Lebanon. However, under the current liberal regulatory environment, it is impossible to establish this fact independently.
III. Country Action Against Drugs in 1998
Policy Initiatives. The GOL recognizes that the continuation of last year's highly publicized efforts by the LAF to control the Baalbek-Hermel area is vital for sustaining the suppression of narcotics cultivation and trafficking. Several raids and seizures were conducted this year.
Parliament passed anti-narcotics legislation this year. First, an amnesty law was passed for drug crimes committed prior to 1991. Then legislation was passed increasing the sentences to as much as fifteen years imprisonment for drug crimes, including money laundering. The new legislation allows asset seizure if the assets can be shown to be connected with drug trafficking. The severe penalties are imposed on those who are involved in producing, supplying, shipping, or utilizing tools to be used in planting, producing, or manufacturing very dangerous pharmaceutical drugs or dangerous drugs used illegally, or if they know their tools will be used for these purposes. The new law holds responsible persons, including landowners, watchmen, and mayors of villages, who know about the cultivation of prohibited crops and fail to notify the authorities about them.
Law Enforcement Efforts. DEA and the U.S. Embassy
in Beirut have a close and effective relationship with Lebanese law enforcement officials.
DEA coordinates any controlled delivery on joint cases and maintains close contact on all
active investigations. In June 1995 the government restricted the importation and use of
acetic anhydride to prevent its diversion for heroin manufacturing. In 1997, the Internal
Security Force seized approximately twenty barrels of acetic anhydride near the coast and
another ten barrels in Baalbek. There have been no reported seizures in 1998.
In July 1998 Lebanese armed forces eradicated some 40,000 square meters of cannabis at Yamouneh/Biqa'. They also raided the offices of Hizballah spiritual leader Sheikh Tufali, whose supporters in 1997 had started the illicit cultivation of opium and cannabis in the mountains of Biqa'. Some smugglers who live in the occupied border area under the control of the Israeli Army have been monitored and arrested for drug smuggling when entering areas controlled by the central government.
Corruption. Corruption is endemic in Lebanon. The government of Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss, installed in 1998, has made an anti-corruption drive one of its central objectives. The UN has initiated an anti-corruption project with the GOL to assist with this problem.
Treaties and Agreements. Lebanon and the United States have no existing formal bilateral agreements for narcotics or extradition. In May 1995 Lebanon acceded to the 1988 UN Drug Convention with reservations on bank secrecy disclosures. There were no known extraditions from Lebanon during 1998. There were some repatriations of persons involved in narcotic crimes. There were some renditions, but few were involved with narcotics. Lebanese courts are following each case.
Cultivation and Production. The eradication of
illicit opium crops started in 1989. A UNDCP program for integrated rural development and
crop substitution started in 1992; the funds allocated for this project were not spent
efficiently. There is no significant poppy cultivation in the Biqa' plain, but there is a
resumption of illicit crop cultivation in certain areas where tobacco is grown, though at
a very low level. It is estimated that the total area cultivated with hashish is about 250
hectares (about 618 acres, in El-Hermel, Deir el Ahmar, Ainata, Mar Chhim, Ersal, Haam,
and other areas). There is no poppy cultivation. There are some unimportant processing
Lebanese and Syrian enforcement agencies continue in their successful suppression of illicit cultivation of opium and cannabis in the Biqa' Valley. However, two factors are eroding this campaign. First, crop substitution, especially in the most remote and impoverished regions, remains inadequately funded and planned. The police, knowledgeable persons, and the media warn that dissatisfied and frustrated farmers may reintroduce prohibited crops. Second, the government has not yet gained day-to-day control over these rural areas.
The price of one green bushel of marijuana (ten green
bushels equals one hectare) is approximately $1200-$1250 (farm gate). The return per
hectare is between $12,000-$18,000. No accurate data is available on cultivation as
farmers in these areas are very secretive. There are tribes who have their own channels
for marketing their production. Solidarity of the tribe prevents access to such
information. Aerial pesticides cannot be used against illicit crops, given inadequate
security in the area.Lebanese authorities deny that significant local processing occurs
and have offered to pursue any U.S. law enforcement leads-to the point of tendering an
offer to U.S. law enforcement personnel to participate as observers on search operations.
During July 1998, the Narcotics Department reported the eradication of 40,000 square
meters of cannabis in Yamouneh/Biqa'. In 1998 in the Biqa' Valley and parts of extreme
northern Lebanon approximately 260,000 square meters were eradicated.
Drug Flow and Transit. Established smuggling routes remain available. Sale, transport, and financing of hashish continue across the Syria-Lebanon border, albeit in greatly reduced quantities. It is estimated that ten to twenty percent of Lebanese hashish is exported to Europe and Arab countries. Opiates from Southwest Asia have been smuggled into Lebanon in the past, but it is believed that current trafficking is negligible.
Heroin and cocaine have been routed through Lebanese sea and airports concealed in cargo containers. A positive development is the improved security at Beirut International Airport. Customs seized six kilograms of cocaine from Brazil and one kilogram of hashish from Africa. A drug smuggling network of 75 persons was broken, with thirty-five persons arrested.
The Chief of the Judicial Police Drug Office reports that most drugs reach Lebanon by air, sometimes with Lebanese expatriates from South America and from Turkey. Some of the opium coming from Turkey is smuggled to Jordan through Lebanon and Syria. Small amounts of opium have been seized.
Demand Reduction. Domestic drug abuse is not a major problem and drug offenders are subject to severe penalties. There are few public programs to raise awareness and combat use. There are some private treatment facilities. Domestic drug abuse has subsided with the end of the civil war.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
Policy Initiatives. Lebanon's removal from the
drugs' "Majors List" in 1997 had a very positive effect on cooperation between
the U.S. and Lebanon. For example, Lebanese legislators have accepted USG advice in
crafting effective narcotics legislation and money laundering legislation.
Road Ahead. The eradication of opium poppy cultivation in Lebanon, commitment to rural development for impoverished areas, establishment of government control in the Biqa' Valley, and initiatives to professionalize the security services are positive achievements. The roll back of cultivation is by no means certain to continue and we must continue working with the Lebanese to preserve success.